Wedding and Rye

Before this last week, I hadn’t been to a wedding for years.  LSW and I are just not in the right age group to be invited, although I suppose our sons may deliver on that score at some point and Middle Son (MS) seems to go to a wedding every other weekend.  Anyway, this week I got to go to one!

It was the wedding of the daughter of one of Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) friends.  I didn’t know anyone there apart from the mother of the bride but it was as lovely as weddings are supposed to be and we met some interesting new acquaintances.  As very peripheral members of the wedding party it was good fun working out who knew and was related to whom, especially as it wasn’t straightforward.

Pictures From A Wedding

Pictures From A Cotswold Wedding (At The Matara Centre)

The weather and the wedding location, just a few miles from us, were excellent.  The itinerary started with the ceremony and, after the inevitable photo shoot during which LSW and I had a walk around the grounds (with LSW contending with high heels on the grass), there was a well lubricated lunch.  There was then an interlude during which several attendees hoovered up the remaining lunchtime wine and LSW and I were able to slip back home for tea and a snooze.  We then returned for the evening event amongst the now swaying throng for a buffet dinner of tasty, slow roasted goat.

The day was relaxed and it looked like everyone enjoyed themselves – some more noisily that others – and certainly LSW and I did.  The event also gave me a reason to resurrect my suit, tie and cuff links which I hadn’t worn since I retired well over a year ago.  It’s a good job I did keep one suit following retirement and, after a bit of dusting down, was pleased to find that it still fits.

One couple we met at the evening wedding event were able to give us some advice on holiday locations in the Balkans.  We have settled on Split in Croatia for our next, short trip – squeezed in between vital football fixtures, LSW’s book group commitments and the village fete.  If we like that, then we may try a longer break in the Balkans next summer or in 2020 (LSW’s big birthday year) in a villa to which we might be able to attract our sons for a family holiday.

It’s fun to be doing all this holiday planning.  However, there is some nervousness for me associated with our Split trip in that we have left it late to book and so had to stray from the normal ‘boutique hotel’ type.  The small apartment we have taken was effectively my choice. LSW normally gets her way on hotels so I’m going to be in trouble (“dead” was her word) if this one isn’t smart, comfortable and clean enough.

There was another interesting event this week…..  We went to dinner with two friends in the village.  They are innovative and creative and it is always inspiring to meet up with them and, especially, to visit their house, goats, chickens and garden.  They run a small business called Hortus Heart and we always find what they have to say about nature and biodynamic farming fascinating even though it is outside our normal way of thinking.    They announced shortly after arrival that there would be ‘an activity’ and my heart momentarily s tripped since I was dreading having to create something.  It turned out to be an enjoyably therapeutic job of cutting the heads off a couple of sheafs of rye together.  How I love tasks like that!

Cutting Rye

Cutting Rye Together

While on the subject of tasks, having finished the painting of the TV room woodwork as reported last week, I am now onto other long-standing items on my to do list.  I finally did my tax return, applied a rather ‘Heath Robinson’ solution to fix some overflowing guttering and created a pile of chopped wood!  These achievements represent a small dent in a long task list.

Chopping Wood: Before and After (Remarkably, Without Being Stiff Next Day)

Finished At Last!

Those of you following this blog for a while will know that I have been painting the woodwork in our ‘TV Room’ – new shutters, skirting and panelling and the old doors – for the last 8 months.  This week, I finally finished!

Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) remains astonished at how long I have taken over this but at least she hasn’t changed her mind about the dark blue colour during the protracted execution and she likes the result.  The parts I did towards the end of the exercise are better than the early efforts but it looks alright if you don’t look too closely.  We now have to paint the walls.  LSW is planning to impress me up by doing those in a matter of a few days.  Maybe hiring a professional is a better idea; we’ll see.

Of course, the primary reason why it took so long to complete this apparently simple painting task, apart from my inexperience, was my reluctance to devote more than 1-2 hours a day to the (admittedly intermittent) work.  Although I’m still a bit frustrated by the patchiness of the end product, I did enjoy the work overall.  I especially liked that I could paint to the rhythm of some of my CDs.  I’ve always wanted a job where I could listen to my favourite music at the same time as working, and retirement has enabled that!

Now I have finished, I have to find a productive way of utilising the hours per week that are freed up.  No problem; there are plenty of competing options and in any case there are lots of events already in the diary over the next couple months.

For example, the football season has re-started.  I plan to attend several Forest Green Rovers (FGR) games, both home and away, in the next few months.  While I attended the Cambridge Folk Festival, which I talked about in my last blog post, FGR enhanced my enjoyment by winning their first game.  Somehow, the music seemed to sound a lot better once I knew FGR had secured three points!

Since then I have seen three games and we remain unbeaten; a very promising start.  I especially enjoyed our win at Swindon who have become local rivals as we have risen and they have fallen (they were in the Premier League just 25 years ago).  I enjoyed joining in on the mischievous chants: ‘Premier League to village team/Forest Green’ and ‘Your ground’s too big for you’; it is, as the picture below shows.

Swindon Football Club

Swindon’s Empty Don Rogers Stand During Warm Up Versus FGR – How The Mighty Have Fallen

Between the football commitments, LSWs work and the rush to complete the TV Room paintwork (so I could show it off to weekend visitors from London and then my parents when they visited us), LSW and I have resumed our ‘days out’.

We really enjoyed a trip to East Somerset.  We went primarily to see the Alexander Calder exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset.  This was notable for containing a large number of personal, functional items designed and made by Calder alongside a splendid sample of his sculpture and mobiles.  It was an excellent exhibition and a visit to Hauser & Wirth, including the adjoining garden, is always a treat.

Piet Oudolf Gardens At Hauser & Wirth

Piet Oudolf Gardens At Hauser & Wirth

Following a very good lunch at the light and airy Chapel in Bruton, the sun came out and we paid an impromptu visit to Iford Manor Garden.  This was a rather unexpected joy. It was an intimate, Italianate garden full of 100 year old mock-Italian buildings adorned with original, imported Italian sculpture and friezes.  It adjoined an archetypally English river scene and old, golden manor buildings, and looked wonderful in the sun.

Iford Manor And Gardens

Iford Manor And Gardens

More day trips like this – as well as longer excursions once LSW’s work is on pause – are being planned to fill my retirement itinerary.


Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

Will Smith’s ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’ was hardly the sort of music that was available at the Cambridge Folk Festival and so is a slightly misleading title for this.  But, during my visit to part of the festival last weekend, there were a lot of jigs and I did do a lot of foot-tapping and unobtrusive swaying to the sounds on offer.  They were primarily various forms of folk music but also blues, soul and Americana.  The sun shone, the atmosphere was relaxed, the festival facilities were first rate, and the music – while not entirely my favourite genre – was very easy on the ear and some was excellent.

Cambridge Festival, Stage 1 With Kate Rusby

Cambridge Festival, Stage 1 With Kate Rusby, A Laid Back Audience (So Many Folding Chairs!) And A Big Sky

I went with an old friend of mine – my Best Man (BM) at my wedding just over 33 years ago.  I was able to stay with at his house, a 30 minute taxi ride away from the festival, for the weekend.  We chatted, caught up on our respective lives and plans, ate and drank well, and enjoyed both the folk festival and the surrounding countryside (which, in a refreshing contrast to the deeply incised valleys around our Gloucestershire home, is open and undulating).  It was, as hoped for, a wonderful change from my routine.

Once again, my retirement meant that, for me at least, the weekend was more relaxed than would have been the case a few years, or even a few months, ago.  I was able to drive to and from Cambridgeshire in a measured way outside of peak traffic hours, there was no rush to do anything and we got the gentle pace of our activities about right.

On the Saturday of the folk festival we arrived when it opened but realised that an 11 hour stint of listening to the array of bands across several stages would exhaust us physically and mentally, especially given the hot and sunny weather.  We saw about 15 bands/performers over about 8 hours that day.  The best of these, for me, were The East Pointers (Americana) and Eric Bibb (blues) but the majority were traditional and rather basic folk bands.  We left early for a curry dinner, thereby missing a couple of headline acts, but, frankly, we were sated.

Cambridge Festival: The Shee, Eric Bibb And Alison Russell From The Birds Of Chicago

Cambridge Festival: The Shee, Eric Bibb And Alison Russell From The Birds Of Chicago

On the Sunday we decided to only attend the festival towards the end of the day. That enabled us to fit in a visit to Ely.  The town was gorgeous in the sunlight and history oozed from every turn.  Ely’s cathedral is terrific; it dominates the town and also the flat, fenland countryside for many miles around it.  It lost much of its ornamentation during the 16th century Reformation and then during Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan reign (he lived in Ely after all!).  But the grandeur and sheer engineering feat of its towers, nave and Lady Chapel remain.

Ely Cathedral, The Ouse And Oliver Cromwell's House

Ely Cathedral, The Ouse And Oliver Cromwell’s House

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

After tucking into a craft beer and lunch we walked around the town and down the Ouse River before popping into Anglesea Abbey on the way to Cambridge; another weather-enhanced treat.

Anglesea Abbey

Anglesea Abbey

We then returned to the folk festival and timed our arrival to see Kate Rusby (lovely voice) and, my BMs favourite, Birds of Chicago (excellent, radiant harmonies with a vibrant and emotional – almost tearful – female lead).  We also saw a clearly famous and popular John Prine but we looked at each other during his set and it was clear we had both had enough folk music for one weekend.

We left the music, sandals, tattoos and occasional whiffs of pot at the festival for a snack and a final bottle of wine back at my BM’s comfortable house and listened to some of his vast collection of CDs.  We congratulated ourselves on getting the pace of the weekend right.  As we looked back on a very good time, my BM prepared for a new working week and I considered the prospect of the leisure of another episode of relaxed retirement.

And so it is…..